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Palace of Soong (or rather Soong House) will be restored – Updated: 2012-12-31 03:45 – by CANG WEI and SONG WENWEI in Nanjing ( China Daily) – reposted by T.E. Yu

The Palace of Soong Mei-ling, a classical building in Nanjing where the former first lady of Republic of China and her husband used to reside, is expected to reopen in October after its first major renovation in about 60 years.

Issue of semantics. Palaces are not 'Houses'.

Issue of semantics. Palaces are not ‘Houses’.

Before the work began, the three-story building — used by Soong and her husband, former Kuomintang leader Chiang Kai-shek, in the 1930s and 1940s — had fallen into disrepair, according to a cultural heritage management bureau.

Palace of Soong will be restored

The Palace of Soong Mei-ling stands on a hill in a suburban area in the eastern part of Nanjing, Jiangsu province. [PHOTO BY SONG QIAO / FOR CHINA DAILY]

Large pieces of the colorful paintings on its ceilings and walls have peeled off.

Some of its windows are broken, pillars unstable and railings cracked.

To restore the building, which was later used as a resting place for senior officials on their way to visit the Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum, 20 million yuan ($3.2 million) will be spent on the 300-day renovation project, said Liu Dong-hua, director of the cultural heritage department under the Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum management bureau.

The original appearance of the palace will be retained to the greatest possible extent, Liu said.

The renovation will first reinforce the structure and then replace or repair all the wood flooring.

The major part of the work will be the colorful paintings, according to Liu.

A panel of experts from Beijing’s Palace Museum, also known as the Forbidden City, who are recognized as being exceptionally skilled in restoring painting on old buildings, will be invited to restore the paintings.

Natural mineral pigments designed for the repair of ancient buildings will also be purchased for painters to achieve the best results.

The glazed green tiles on the roof of the palace may be totally replaced with new tiles of the same color and shape, and orders for these special tiles will be placed with professional factories in Beijing or Yixing, in Jiangsu province.

The renovation work also includes removing the air conditioners on the outside walls and termite prevention.

The work will be carried out strictly in accordance with the building’s blueprint.

“The blueprint was found by chance when we collected materials for the maintenance work,” said Zhou Zhongxing, general manager of a service company of the palace.

The design drawing, which contains five pieces of paper, detailed the structure and function of each story, he said.

The renovation team is soliciting old photos and decorations that used to be in the palace.

A 200-square-meter basement in the palace, which contained some functional rooms, such as a kitchen, boiler room and laundry, will be restored and opened to the public for the first time.

The palace, built from 1931 to 1934, was later named after Soong for her frequent visits when she was in Nanjing, then capital of the Republic of China.

Soong was the youngest of the famous three Soong sisters. Their husbands, including Sun Yat-sen, founding father of Republic of China, and Chiang Kai-shek, played large roles in China’s history in the early 20th century.

Since 1950, the palace has been handed over to several management departments, including the city’s health bureau and a large hotel company.

In March, 2012, it was put under the management bureau of Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum, which also manages other historical buildings from the time when Kuomintang ruled China.

Architect with plans.

Architect eyes skewed plans.

Contact the writers at cangwei@chinadaily.com.cn and songwenwei@chinadaily.com.cn

ICCR Notes :

One of our ICCR members who happens to be an architect has this to annonymously say.

“While the efforts at heritage conservation are laudable and critical to the re-Imperialisation of China, this so-called ‘palace’ is but an upper middle class family’s  large house, not even the size of a 1 Jin Siheyuan (House), aristocrat’s 2 to 3 Jin Siheyuan (Mansion), OR a low ranked nobleman or retired high ranked bureaucrat’s 4 or 5 Jin Siheyuan (Manor – 20 sq ft minimum manor level building). A series of 5 Jin Siheyuans within single walled compound no smaller than 2 acres qualifies as a Villa (Village) equivalent suitable for the nobility, which is still not a palace.

A “Palace” proper would feature a large central square, finely carved balustrade lined avenues, at least 1 liveable sized pagoda (typically most Pagodas are ornamental), a hanful of high-Chinese style gazebos, at least 1 olympic sized pool, similar sized rockeries and/or ornamental fish pond(s), and highly manicured-exotic tree featuring (not mainly shrub as in the Siheyuan) gardens covering at least 16 acres (as per Prince Gong’s Palace Residence) in totality. The term palace is entirely unsuitable to describe this rather large upper class sized but not even Siheyuan sized building. I have seen tea houses and residences larger and more ornate than this structure who’s owners would not dare claim the word ‘palace’ in their naming”.

An Aristiocrat relaxes at his private concubinary equipped with an ornate pool.

An Aristocrat relaxes at his private concubinary equipped with an ornate pool. Note that retired PRC soldiers require permission from the military to work in their uniforms for selected/screened persons or associations with weapons permits (for inside the residence) only. The soldiers in the background do not indicate that the unamed Chinese aristocrat is a PRC official or is linked with the government of the PRC, though registered via ICCR in informative consultation with the PRC until formal recognition of the Imperial Chinese Court.

ICCR concurs with the somewhat harsh but necessary comment above. Please do not term small buildings with such superlatives as ‘palace’ if the size and form are unsuitable. ICCR suggests that ALL buildings (residential, commercial or even restaurants) using the term ‘Palace’ be contacted by the local council departments regulating naming to rename themselves appropriately as per the above suggestions. This so-called “Soong Palace” should be renamed “Soong House” but not so much as “Soong Cottage” (not bucolic enough, also finely crafted and mostly stone so more a House than a Cottage) at most.

Incidentally, such superlative naming alludes Chinese lack of sense of proportion, and has negative (flashy and unrealistic, harlequin like) connotations about the way the Chinese are as a people. Will all appropriate parties (Architect associations and Building naming approval committees etc..) please pay attention to this exchange about size and appropriate naming of buildings and act accordingly.

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